End the Silence
+JMJ+ Sexual abuse is a pervasive problem in our world today. It’s everywhere from homes, to schools, churches, Hollywood, politics, sports, places of business, and anywhere else you can think of. It could be going on right under our noses and we might not recognize it. The person sitting next to us could be suffering from abuse and we might never know, let alone suspect, it.
We are afraid to talk about sexual abuse because no one likes to feel awkward and uncomfortable. Let's face it, sexual abuse is an uncomfortable topic but, the truth is, we sometimes need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We should be uncomfortable discussing such horrors! We should feel uncomfortable discussing sin and corruption! But our discomfort is no excuse for avoiding the difficult stuff. It's time to put an end to the silence of sexual assault that has plagued our culture for so long. It's time to break the stigmas attached with sexual abuse and mental health. It's time to end the culture of shame that places blame on the victim. It's time to allow healing in our Church and in our world. Healing can only take place once the evil has been rooted out, the filth let out, and the sun allowed to disinfect the wounds. We all need to be a part of encouraging that healing to happen.
Just the words “sexual assault” and “rape” and the like are enough to make people squeamish. This aversion to certain words and phrases seems "funny" (I don't mean "ha ha" kind of funny) in a way. In a society where the hookup culture is so prevalent and topics of a sexual nature (oftentimes inappropriate) are brought up so easily (even, sad to say, in the classrooms of young, innocent children...which is abuse in and of itself), the issue of sexual abuse still remains taboo. Despite all the education about sex itself, there are too many people who are uneducated and oblivious to the topic of sexual abuse. In my experience, most people would much rather have a conversation about how to prevent abuse rather than have a conversation about what to do once it has actually happened (are you listening, bishops of the Catholic Church?). So many individuals are clueless as to how to talk to survivors, how to treat them, and how to support them. Simply put, like it or not, we need to learn to talk about it. We need to be proactive. We need to learn about sexual abuse, learn how to better support those who have been victimized, and we need to take the steps necessary to stamp it out. We need to stop enabling abuse by our silence. Instead, we need to PROTECT.
The stigma surrounding sexual abuse is one of the many reasons I felt called to write my new book, Glimmers of Grace: Moments of Peace and Healing Following Sexual Abuse. There are many resources explaining what sexual abuse is, how/why it happens, etc. but there seem to be fewer resources available that actually get to the heart and mind of what a survivor actually goes through. There are fewer resources that open up doors for conversation so that survivors and those who support them can better understand it. The truth is, hearing directly from a survivor can be very helpful because someone who has been there can often get to the heart of what someone suffer in ways that no textbook can. I pray that the vulnerability that I put forth in writing Glimmers of Grace will help guide survivors on their road to healing while, at the same time, bringing light to a problem that affects all of us, be it directly or indirectly. I want readers to know that sexual abuse is a serious issue in our world but that there is hope, peace, healing, and freedom after abuse. I can personally attest to the fact that, yes, there is life after abuse!
No form of abuse is okay. The person violated should never be the one blamed. Our efforts should always be on supporting survivors and helping them to heal. We need to remind survivors that what someone else did to them does not define them. We need to remind them that there is help, hope, and healing. Let's all try a little harder to talk about sexual abuse, to learn more about it, to seek out justice against perpetrators whenever possible, and to support those who have suffered because of the sins of others.
My friend, if you are a survivor of sexual abuse and haven’t been believed, I am sorry. If you have been ridiculed for your story, I’m sorry. You deserve to be believed. You didn't deserve what happened to you. It pains me greatly that we live in such a cruel world! I have felt its cruelty too and I do understand your pain and frustration.
Although I admit that I was very blessed to have the support of a loving family, I just want to share with you that I was not always believed or supported by the community around me. I faced threats by people who sided with my rapist and I even witnessed my rapist's supporters handing out flyers (in the church parking lot) in order to raise support for his defense. I know what it's like to walk through a store and have people look at you with eyes full of loathing. I understand what living in fear for your life feels like when people don't believe you and are seeking vengeance. I understand what it feels like to have your good name and your family's good name trampled on in the mud again and again as vicious individuals try to make you (the victim) look like the real perpetrator. I, too, have experienced the shame of having the blame put on me – by myself (as victims often do) and by others who really had no clue how I had suffered at the hands of narcissistic, cruel man, a man who was supposed to be a healer and a servant of Christ.
I share this with you, not to frighten you, but to reassure you. You are not alone and you can get through whatever obstacles come your way! Your background and story may be different from mine, your resources may be different, but there is always the possibility of healing if we truly open our minds and hearts to it.
Please know this: you are loved. You are precious. You are worthy of God's love. When you feel you are not enough, remember that God's love is enough. No matter how long you have lived in silence, allow Him to enter into the wounds that need healing. Let Him be with you. Allow Him to love you and heal you. You don't have to earn anything because, no matter what, no matter how you view yourself, He loves you and He sees you as the unique, beautiful, precious, irreplaceable individual you are.
Don't allow discouragement to overcome your heart! Whenever you feel that you aren't doing enough, whenever the world around you seems to be turning against you, whenever you feel like you're sinking deeper into the abyss, just remember that God has got you. He is holding you. He is always willing to help you carry your crosses.
You are not alone. You are worthy of God's love and attention. You are worthy of receiving God's grace. You matter. You are valuable. You are enough! You deserve to have a voice!
If you are interested in learning more about Glimmers of Grace, please go to my Books page.
To purchase, please check out the Our Sunday Visitor bookstore